The Chaotic State of UK Drone Regulation

There may have been some minor changes to regulation since this document was created.

However it is still a very interesting read and covers some interesting sections, drone regulation by local authorities in particular.


I just wonder if there is a body that ties local councils together that would listen to aeromodelling bodies and formulate a policy about this problem so that all councils sing from the same hymn sheet. The CAA will no doubt say they are only interested in people following the ANO.

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Excellent read. Thanks for posting.

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36 pages :scream: I’ll have to put the kettle on and have some buscuits handy for this one Cheers. :+1:t2:

They claim that CAP722 contains the drone regulations (page 19).


Rookie error.

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The thing about trying to ban drone flying from council land, and other land for that matter, is it’s only going to increase the number of people flying illegally. It will have the knock-on effect of compromising safety as, when people are already breaking a law, they find it easier to step into breaking others, and fly well beyond VLOS etc. to get the shots they want to get, and the pilot has an interest in keeping their TOAL location inconspicuous and discrete where they’re unlikely to be seen. Contrary to promoting good governance in an area, which is the purpose for which byelaws exist as a legal construct, they promote unsafe and illegal behaviour around what is otherwise a legal and regulated activity.

The current drone regs were introduced to ensure the safety of operation for people flying UAS. Byelaws introduced which contradict or try to supersede these regs are likely to not stand up to a good legal challenge. I don’t believe byelaws in place where the principal interest in having them in place is safety or public order can possibly stand legal scrutiny - as there is already national regulation in place covering this. The only ones likely to withstand a challenge are where there is another overriding interest in having them in place, such as an environmental or conservation concern.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Drone pilots need to start a collective legal fund to start challenging and knocking off these byelaws through precedent in the courts. Crowdjustice for example would be a good idea.

PS: There is also a requirement when creating a byelaw to consult with interested parties and groups. I’ve not heard of any such byelaw being created in consultation with BMFA or FPVUK. This would also be worth raising as a point about them.

In carrying out the regulatory assessment, the local authority must consult such persons as it considers may be affected by the proposed byelaw


Local authorities can mostly just be ignored. A “Policy” is not law and can’t be enforced. A “Byelaw/PSPO” cannot prevent the flying of drones over authority land… as has been said many times before - airspace is a state asset governed by the CAA. The only thing they can stop is TOAL from their land and what actual does that achieve? They can’t stop you carrying a bag containing a drone or just carrying the drone - that would be ridiculous. And compared with dog attacks (or which there have been numerous) how many drones flying over parks have crashed and seriously injured anyone? I can’t think of any. So the best they can do is ban the mere action of holding a drone in your hand and letting it take off. You may as well try to ban picnics or noisy kids. As you say, there are consultations and a legal process that has to be followed to create a byelaw. Imagine someone in a council actually writing the words “We are going to ban holding a drone in a public park”. Say it out loud and it sounds so deranged it is laughable.


It does pose an obstacle to those of us who fly under Article 16 though.

Not really. Fly sub-250g and fly anywhere in Open Category. Fly >250g and use Article 16. But then you can ONLY fly in a defined recreational area, 30m from people, having done a risk assessment, and not in a ‘built up area’ which includes residential and commercial, etc. So it’s not the LA posing the obstacle.

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I know; I do that where I live. I mean for people who live in areas where the council has introduced parks byelaws with provisions on model aircraft though.


Away from crowds though :wink:

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A lengthy and most interesting read. Much food for thought.

Of course! Always in accordance with the rules under which you decide to fly! :grinning:

It always seems to get over looked when folks say sub 250 fly anywhere blah blah.

Liverpool City Council have parks byelaws relating to model aircraft.

They’re actually the most reasonable and measured I’ve seen for any parks byelaws about drones/model aircraft.

23 (i) Where any part of the Ground has, by a notice conspicuously exhibited in the Ground, been set
apart by the Council for the flying of jet-propelled, rocket-propelled or power-driven model aircraft,
no person in any other part of the ground shall release any such aircraft for flight, and no person
shall –
(a) cause such aircraft to take off; or
(b) without reasonable excuse, cause such an aircraft to land, in such other part of the
(ii) Where an area within a part of the Ground so set apart for the flying of jet-propelled, rocketpropelled or power-driven model aircraft is designated by the Council as an area from which aircraft
may be launched and is described in a notice affixed or set up in some conspicuous position on the
Ground, a person shall not release such an aircraft for flight, or cause such an aircraft to take off, in
any part of the Ground other than that area.
“Model Aircraft” means an aircraft which either weighs not more than 5 kilogrammes without its fuel or is for the time
being exempted (as a model aircfraft) from provisions of the Air Navigation Order.
“Power Driven” means driven by the combustion of petrol vapour or other combustible vapour or other combustible
substances or by one or more electric motors or by compressed gas.
“Jet-Propelled” or “Rocket-Propelled” means driven by jet propulsion or by means of a rocket, other than by means of
a small reaction motor powered by a solid fuel pellet not exceeding one inch in length.

In other words you’re free to fly, except where the park has a designated TOAL spot for model aircraft, in which case you’re obliged to use that.

I don’t think any of their parks actually have this, though.

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That is a very interesting read; a lot to digest.
BTW, shame they use American language in a UK report - airplanes for aeroplanes and gasoline rather than petrol powered motors…

As per, they will have no choice but to follow the style guide of the journal.

Actually, having read the article, it may not be prepared for journal publication. It’s very interesting and a decent review but certainly has some very obvious editing issues for those used to reading academic texts.

Having read it carefully- that was a really badly written article!
Despite being a timely and highly valid topic, the authors wandered off the point of local drone regulation and into the realm of questioning drone encounters with commercial aircraft. Doubting the competence of pilots filing airprox reports and failing to understand how a drone can pose a threat to even the largest of airliners [ see the hundreds of lives lost when, for example, pitot tubes or angle of attack sensors fail] shows a fundamental lack of aviation knowledge. This is further revealed when the authors don’t understand why a drone may be seen by one, not both pilots [pilot flying vs pilot monitoring roles] or no course alteration is made without colliding [ high closing speed, too late to take action]. The otherwise useful data on government structures and the role of bylaws was diluted by trying to pick fights with the aviation industry, instead of focusing on how reasonable TOAL access can be created in Britain.

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Ultimately in my opinion it will have to come down to drone pilots to take it on themselves collectively to secure this through a few means:

  • Staying vigilant against new proposed byelaws and ensuring both FPVUK and BMFA, as well as local pilots themselves, are properly consulted as required by law by the local authority, challenging through the courts if necessary
  • Exploring options to challenge existing byelaws councils hold which likely conflict with current legislation and national regulatory policies, particularly ones which are overly restrictive such as general prohibitions in parks byelaws
  • Exploring options for a collective legal fund for the above. Might end up being reactive when some council wants to create a new byelaw and some local drone pilot decides to challenge it in the courts and starts a crowdjustice campaign, but I think we should explore being more proactive than that

This… I have the misfortune to live in a city / county where the authorities have stated that drone use is prohibited in council-controlled areas (parks, etc). This appears to be based on [unpublished, at least on the web] bylaws dating back to the 1970s and 1980s that outlaw the take off and landing of model aircraft. Clearly these regulations were framed long before drones became consumer items, and as such it could be argued that they do not take proper consideration of the devices currently available to casual users of recreational spaces. Indeed, it may well be that the official bodies concerned have found a convenient bit of legislation and have kicked the true issues regarding drone usage into the long grass under the guise of it being too difficult.

The linked paper unfortunately asserts that bylaws “could” be inappropriate, “may” be open to challenge, and “might” be contrary to national law. The title incorporating the word chaotic is indeed appropriate, but beyond highlighting the issue it does little to address or propose means of resolving the situation - other than suggesting such bylaws might, somewhere, sometime, be legally challenged.

So the chaos will continue as the status quo until either some unfortunate individual gets hauled before the courts and is prepared to shoulder the costs and time involved in a robust challenge. Or, groups and organisations involved in promoting and supporting the use of drones proactively get together and mount such a challenge on behalf of all of their members. Sadly there does not seem to be much impetus for the latter at present, but it is my belief that these organisations would be making a very positive move on behalf of drone users if they started to move on this issue.

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